Touring The UNICEF Supply Headquarters In Copenhagen

This is part of my 18,000 Miles For Good series.  I hope you’ll stay tuned for the rest of the posts:

My original connection to UNICEF started at a young age. As children, we used to receive small orange cardboard boxes from our school before Halloween. We would take them with us during trick-or-treating, asking people for pocket change along with a piece of candy.  But, I never really knew where the money went.  Sure, there was a child on the box, staring at me.  Did he or she need money for a place to live, or to get a good meal?  Where did they live?  I never really figured that part out.  While I have strong memories of raising the money, I’ve never had a strong connection to what UNICEF actually does, until now.

The start of our official time in Copenhagen found us bound for the UNICEF supply facility located there. One of 3 in the world (Dubai and Panama are the others) and also the largest, it housed all the supplies we would be bringing to Djibouti.

We learned that our plane would be filled mostly with medicine. 300,000 doses of Cholera medicine highlighted the list that also included other vaccines and water treatment kits. While we would be dropping these supplies in Djibouti, I was a bit surprised to hear how some of the supplies got into Yemen.

Airplane service to Yemen is severely limited. Many times, the supplies are delivered via small boats called dhows. They fly the UNICEF flag, which likely provides them some protection. But, they’re still venturing into an active war zone to help children live better lives.

Facility Tour

We toured the warehouse operation first. It’s an amazingly automated facility. The small parts that aren’t automated are for more difficult to pack items that UNICEF workers put together. The boxes move around via forklift and ultimately end up on a small train system bound for the much larger storage facility.

Walking into the storage facility makes me feel a bit like I’m walking into a nuclear missile silo somewhere in North Dakota. The ceilings are impossibly high and automated cranes are moving product back and forth. Some is bound for storage while other shipments are being selected to be shipped via planes like ours.

After touring the warehouse we spent a few minutes reviewing the actual goods UNICEF distributes. Water treatment kits, cholera medication, schools-in-a-box, nutritional supplements and food for children. The list was pretty amazing to me. I found the schools-in-a-box especially interesting. They are compact and can be shipped to communities virtually anywhere in the world to help with development and learning.

School In A Box

School In A Box

The Final Two Pennies

There were some staggering numbers, like the $1.6 billion worth of vaccines UNICEF distributed last year. Given the size of their operation (and with the help of others), they play an important role in lowering the price of vaccines, making them even more accessible.   Learning that UNICEF is leveraging their buying power to significantly decrease the price of those vaccines is great to hear.

In 2016, they helped 29 million people get safe drinking water.  They also helped establish basic education for almost 12 million children in emergency situations.

While we only had a brief 90 minutes at the facility, I came away knowing much more about the UNICEF mission. It also made me want to learn more. Contributing my time and money to help children is great, especially when I see how it helps.

One more number I found compelling: it costs UNICEF $42 to feed 150 malnourished children a nutritious meal.

$42….that’s why I’m getting back into the orange box business, this time as a grassroots organizer.  I’ve ordered some boxes for our community and will be matching the donations made this Halloween.  I can’t wait to see my kids carrying that orange box, and for them to understand the connection.

If you’re interested in starting an orange box in your community for Halloween, you can find all the information on the UNICEF website.  It’s easy to get started.


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